Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” – Isaiah 30:21 NIV
About a year before we knew that we were going to be returning to California God spoke to my heart about preparing myself to return. We were just coming off of our second year and entering our third year of living in El Salvador and we were in LOVE with living and serving there. I could not image leaving. But yet, I knew God’s voice in my life and so I began to prepare for what God would have for us. It was clear that I needed to prepare myself for another transition that would happen in the distant future.
I remember these words penetrating my heart one morning,
God take us back, the place we began
The simple pursuit of nothing but you
The innocence of a heart in your hands
God take us back,
To an unswerving faith in the power of your name
A heart beating for your kingdom to reign
A church that is known for your presence again
God take us back.
The words “an unswerving faith…God take us back.” At the time it felt as though God was reminding me of the faith it took to leave in the first place but as I was sitting with a friend a few weeks ago she reminded me that the cry of my heart was to have God take us to a place of an innocent heart, to a place where our faith was completely entrusted in is presence, El Salvador.
That year of preparing my heart for whatever God had in store, because I had no idea what that would be, was a year of just trusting in Him. Unswerving in my faith that I knew his voice and who he has called me to be. He had made it clear to me the gifts he had given me and the joy I had gotten from trusting him to lead me. I was reminded of the times I struggled to find Him and yet he was there, I was reminded of the times I called out to him and he brought me comfort, I was reminded of the deep loneliness I felt early on and he met me with arms of comfort, I was reminded of children crying to return to a familiar place only to feel that same feeling when they left, I was reminded of the deep relationships that would be developed and continue to grow, I was reminded of a promise that as we trusted our lives to Christ his Spirit would guide us. It’s a beautiful dance that he is leading me in.
Returning to California has not been easy for me. Yet I have been reminded of the day that John Mark told me about the position at Vanguard University. I knew in that moment that we would walk the hard road of leaving El Salvador. As we walked through the process of accepting the position at Vanguard I knew God was leading. I can’t say it was an easy decision but I knew that this was what God had been preparing me for over the last year. Although we did not want to leave we knew God was leading us to go. With two months to prepare to leave El Salvador God prepared the way. It truly is incredible to look back now and see how God moved. We saw God’s faithfulness in providing for us, sheltering us, and guiding us as we mourned leaving El Salvador.
It wasn’t until about a month ago where I really had the opportunity to begin the process of understanding what it meant to leave El Salvador. Getting my family back to California was one of the biggest challenges I would ever walk through. Making sure they made the transition well. As a mom and wife that meant putting my own transition on the back burner so that I could focus on them. I am so incredibly grateful for how well my kids have been doing. They have their moments of missing El Salvador but here is where they are at now, they are joyful, happy, enjoying life here and loving God. The fact that they came off the mission field and are still loving the Lord is a gift. I am constantly reminded that our kids lived the missionary life well. They felt loved and a part of God’s plan for our family. They have taken what they learned over seas and applied it to who they are today. I am so incredibly proud of them and continue to pray that they constantly seek God in all they do. As many of you know living overseas can put a great deal of stress on marriages and then coming off the field has its moments as well. Our marriage has stood strong and I am so grateful for our ability to communicate. I am so incredibly proud of John Mark and the husband and father he is, his heart for me and our kids is beyond incredible. I am so grateful for the amazing marriage and friendship we have.
As I sensed our family settling in, I began longing to be back in El Salvador. Longing to be in the simple pursuit of seeking Christ in a place that hungered for him. I felt like I was slapped in the face with all that Orange County is and it hit me hard. There were days when I just wanted to stay at home. Tucked away in my own world but I was reminded of the loneliness I felt early on in El Salvador and how dangerous it was for me to not begin to build a community around me. Then this song came on, A Simple Pursuit, and I was reminded again of how God had prepared me, how he gifted me, how he comforted me, how he pursued me, how he developed me to whole heartily thirst for his will. I feel like a strange. The common ground of fellow Christians is not enough as my faith looks different and I am wrestling with how to communicate that to the people around me. I feel most lonely when I walk into the church on Sunday mornings and feel as though I am a stranger. In order to work through that I found my pastor friend and told her that I needed her to push me, encourage me, hold me accountable, mentor me in this next season of my life because I needed someone who would be unswerving in their faith to help me walk through these doors that God has opened. She is and I’m so grateful.
I’m simply pursuing God in the little moments of his faithfulness. Knowing that I am deeply rooted in his heart. Taking me back to the place I call home, in his arms. The place he formed me and guided me into a person who wants to live in his will. It is exciting to know that we are in the middle of his incredible story. A place he has designed just for us, right now. It takes my breath away. We are grateful to be able to stay engaged with what is happening in El Salvador and we are also whole heartily pursuing places to serve here in California. I am humbled by the opportunity to continue to serve God’s people in both countries. Thank you for being a part of his perfect plan.
Con Mucho Amor, Cristina